Friday, 7 March 2014

The danger is that if Northumberland Conservatives get their way an estimated 700 rural homes may miss out on broadband roll out’ – Scott Dickinson, Labour Councillor for Druridge Bay

‘The danger is that if Northumberland Conservatives get their way an estimated 700 rural holes may miss out on broadband roll out’ – Scott Dickinson, Labour Councillor for Druridge Bay
Labour councillors in Northumberland have reacted with dismay over claims by Conservative group leader Peter Jackson that the decision by the council to ‘claw back’ over £700,000 in broadband funding to plug a gap in digital coverage in the most rural areas.

Councillor Jackson wrote to Labour group and council leader Grant Davey to complain the ‘claw back’ would ‘promote a county which is divided into haves and have nots’.

Now Councillor Davey has come out fighting accusing Conservative group leader of ‘scaremongering’, and has insisted that the ‘clawback’ was in response to concerns that BT would not roll out fibre optic schemes to the most rural areas because ‘it wouldn’t be cost effective’.

Councillor Davey went on to state;
‘If we don’t act then we will most definitely find our most rural areas frozen out of the broadband revolution. Councillor Jackson is once again, shooting from the lip and I’m sure Conservative councillors who represent rural wards will question the value of creating yet another scare story for party political purposes’.
Labour are pointing out if they follow the Conservative leaders opinion then 700 rural homes face a ‘broadband shut out’.

Councillor Scott Dickinson, the Business Chair of the authority and councillor for rural Druridge Bay said
‘We’re seeking to meet the potential gaps in coverage under the BT contract negotiated by the last administration and we think that by using the claw back from BT we can make broadband available to more rural locations than originally envisaged. It’s disappointing that Councillor Jackson and Northumberland Tories have picked this issue up to make political capital. This judgement call comes fast on the back of their rash pledge to find £100m to resurface all roads in the county’.

• Councillor Jackson has written to Council Leader Grant Davey seeking answers to a number of questions.
• While the letter was not marked ‘confidential – not for circulation’ – it will only be available if Councillor Jackson agrees to its publication – we presume he’s got nothing to hide so will agree.
• The new administration, as part of its ‘value for money’ investigation has sought external support to look at the IT budget and its application to ensure that the authority has secured ‘value for money’. Initial estimates indicate that the IT budget was over £30m in the last year of the Liberal administration.
• Councillor Jackson, in his letter to Mr Davey said that ‘you seem to be intent on promoting a county which is divided into the haves and the have-nots, a county characterised by "digital exclusion" for all those who live in the most secluded areas’.
• If the authority did not claw back resources from BT then some rural communities would not get broadband. As a result of this decision, it is estimated 700 homes who would not be upgraded if we followed Councillor Jackson’s logic. He really needs to attend more meetings and make more advantage of leaders briefings.

Broadband – The Facts
1. BDUK have allocated Northumberland of £650k for the Superfast-broadband Extension Programme (SEP).
2. This allocation is from a £250M fund earmarked to bring counties up to 95% coverage.
3. They have used an allocation model that suits denser population areas and a solution to upgrade the remaining BT street cabinets to Fibre to the Premise (FTTC).
4. Unfortunately there are not many cabinets within rural Northumberland to be upgraded.
5. This is due to the fact that much of the Northumberland rural telecoms infrastructure is built without cabinets, using what we call direct Exchange Only lines.
6. I expect we have a high number of Exchange Only lines and these premises will not receive any upgrade under this funding.
7. The £650k funding will not get Northumberland near the 95% coverage figure.
8. There are approximately 15,000 premises in the remaining none-superfast areas, known as the remaining 9%.
9. There may be an alternative separate DEFRA scheme with BT to identify the next round of affordable premises they can connect.
10. This plan may provide a solution and would connect the next most affordable premises using a fund of £784K to connect 428 premises (which is 0.3% of the county).
11. If that level of funding was secured the £650K SEP funding which needs to be match 50:50 giving a total of £1.3m could connect at best a further 700 premises.
12. This additional 700 premises may get the county up to a coverage figure of 92% (previously at 91% contracted to BT).
13. Later in the year BT should have a new model using Fibre to the Remote Node which should significantly improve the coverage capability.
14. In addition the ability to use capital clawed-back from the existing BT contract by improving broadband take-up could be used as the capital match.

This is a reminder to Government that, without a consistent approach to energy policy, investors and

British independent renewable energy developer RES has today announced it is ceasing work on its
biomass power station project at the Port of Blyth in Northumberland.
RES’ decision follows the withdrawal of a key project partner in late 2013 due to ongoing uncertainty in UK
energy policy. The Government’s inconsistent support for dedicated biomass energy over the last two years
- as well as increased uncertainty over the UK’s energy policy under the Government’s Electricity Market

Reform process - has critically undermined the investment case for the North Blyth Biomass Power Station.
The decision to end the biomass power station project means the loss of hundreds of millions of pounds of
investment into the Blyth estuary and wider Northumberland economy. The 300 construction job
opportunities and 50 full time, long-term operational jobs at the plant and annual Community Benefit Fund
will also be lost.

The project would have brought a long-term partnership with the Port of Blyth in terms of fuel transport,
handling and occupancy, helping to secure further growth of this important employer and economic engine of
the region. It would also have provided a magnet for economic growth in Northumberland and the North
East region.

RES’ Chief Operating Officer for the UK Gordon MacDougall stated:
“Despite the support the project enjoys locally due to the significant benefits it would bring to the local and
regional economy, the North Blyth Biomass Power Station currently faces insurmountable investment
barriers due to uncertain Government energy policy.
“It’s bitterly disappointing for RES that we are unable to bring this exciting project forward, and deliver the
significant boost it would have represented for the Blyth and Northumberland economy. However, the
gradual erosion of support for dedicated biomass leaves us with no other option.”
RES’ announcement also calls into question the Government’s commitment to renewable energy and
independent generators, at a time when it appears to be supporting polluting fossil fuels - including potential,
but unproven, shale gas - and costly nuclear power. In addition, the Government’s preference for the
conversion of existing coal fired power stations to biomass over dedicated biomass generating capacity is at
odds with the urgent need to bridge the looming capacity crunch in the UK energy system.
RES has called upon the Government to clarify its support for renewable energy as a vital part of the UK
energy mix, in order to ensure that independent generators and major investors alike have the certainty
needed to continue investing in UK infrastructure.
Document Ref: 02377-010337 Issue: 01
Page 2 of 2 / RES stops work on £300m North Blyth Power Station
Gordon MacDougall concluded:
“RES is grateful for the support we have received from stakeholders including the local community,
Northumberland County Council, Environment Agency and project partners such as the Port of Blyth.
However as the UK’s energy policy currently stands, we cannot make an investment case to take this project
“This is a reminder to Government that, without a consistent approach to energy policy, investors and
developers will be deterred from delivering the billions of pounds needed to ensure the nation’s energy
infrastructure is able to keep the lights on and secure cost effective electricity for British homes and
Notes to editors:
1. RES is one of the world’s leading independent renewable energy project developers with operations
across Europe, the Americas and Asia-Pacific. At the forefront of wind energy development for over
30 years, RES has developed and/or built more than 8,000MW of wind energy capacity worldwide.
In the UK alone, RES currently has more than 1,000MW of wind energy projects either constructed,
under construction or consented. RES is active in a range of renewable energy technologies
including large-scale biomass, solar, wave and tidal and on-site renewable installations. For more

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Residents of Seaton Sluice are gearing up for the arrival of superfast fibre broadband which will ‘transform the community’ according to Councillor Susan Dungworth who represents the area.

Countdown for community as Broadband project promises ‘superfast access to internet’ and a boost to local house prices

Residents of Seaton Sluice are gearing up for the arrival of superfast fibre broadband which will ‘transform the community’ according to Councillor Susan Dungworth who represents the area.
Using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), BDUK (Broadband Delivery UK - via Department for Culture Media and Sport) and Northumberland County Council, Arch Digital is bringing Superfast broadband to over 90% of Northumberland’s homes and businesses. The project has been designed to ensure the communities that have not been upgraded commercially by BT can have access to the same broadband speeds as more urban areas.
Now Arch Digital are promoting a drop in event at Seaton Sluice Community Centre between 4pm and 6pm. Experts will be on hand to answer questions from residents and businesses, outlining the benefits of being online in general and how high speed broadband could make a difference to their business or home.
Councillor Dungworth said
‘This is a great example of how the new administration in County Hall is working with partners to make sure our communities can access the benefits of superfast broadband. This is an important step and will make a real difference to residents and business ‘quality of life’. Recent studies show how access to broadband can increase house prices by as much as 20% so it makes sound economic sense to make the change’

• Seaton Sluice will benefit from superfast fibre broadband infrastructure with speeds of over 24mbps available to the majority of residents and businesses in the area.
• There are four street cabinets serving Seaton Sluice.
• One has been upgraded by BT but the other three have had to rely on the publically funded iNorthumberland programme.
• Three cabinets are already live and residents and businesses served by those cabinets can already order a high speed fibre broadband service.
• It is expected that the final cabinet will be live by the end of this week.

Monday, 3 March 2014

“We’re challenging them to back our schools and colleges as we implement ConDem cuts to county budget’ – Councillor Scott Dickinson, Druridge Bay

“We’re challenging them to back our schools and colleges as we implement ConDem cuts to county budget’ – Councillor Scott Dickinson, Druridge Bay

Labour councillors in North Northumberland have come out fighting as they challenge claims made by Liberal Democrat MP Sir Alan Beith and his hopeful successor that ‘proposals over changes to post 16 transport haven’t been thought through’. The scheme to provide free transport to all eligible youngsters which has grown by 323% since its introduction in 2008/09 has recently come under fire for encouraging a ‘Northumberland education cash drain’ as figures released by the County Council show a massive loss to education budgets in the county of £6.5m next year. Labour claim that’s unfair and that local Lib Dems have chosen to play politics with the issue of education in Northumberland.
They point to the need to make savings of £32.5m this year alone as part of the ConDem coalition budget cuts. They also point out that Sir Alan Beith has voted with every government Finance Bill in parliament and are accusing him of ‘hypocrisy’ as he supports successive government raids on local government finances.
Labour are setting out their proposals for post 16 travel against a plan to safeguard education budgets in the county and are questioning the value of a policy that costs Northumberland’s schools and colleges a staggering £6.5m a year. Labour claim local schools and colleges have lost over £28m since the introduction of free post 16 travel.
Labour Business Chair and Councillor Scott Dickinson who represents Druridge Bay said
‘It seems local Liberal Democrats want to have their cake and eat it. First Sir Alan votes with the Tories to cut council budgets by over 25% year on year and then he complains about the effects on his constituents. We want to make sure that education in Northumberland becomes the first choice for its children and young people and we don’t think it’s fair on schools and colleges in the county to subsidise the likes of Newcastle College. Under our proposals travel to schools and colleges will continue to be free as part of our ‘Support our Schools and Colleges’ campaign. The county’s education system has lost an estimated £28m since the introduction of subsidised travel to out of county educational establishments and we don’t think that’s either fair or sustainable. I’m challenging Liberals to back our schools and colleges by supporting our plans for free transport to those education establishments’.

• When charges were last in place in 2007/08 academic year the number of students on the P16 travel scheme was in the region of 850. That number has now risen to 3600, i.e. the scheme has grown 323% in terms of student numbers over the course of the last 5 years.
• Recent analysis of the current free student travel scheme demonstrates that whilst the number of students remaining in post 16 education since charges were last in place (2007/08) has remained largely static, although slightly reduced, the Council is paying for a far greater proportion of their transport costs, we now provide free travel for 51% of P16 students.
• In fact there were 7821 students in P16 education in October 2008 (coinciding with the commencement of the free student travel scheme) but by October 2012 the numbers had in fact slightly declined to 6976 students thereby demonstrating that the free scheme has not been successful in encouraging more students to remain in P16 education. In other words the free student travel scheme appears to be largely “deadweight”; funding mainly those who would have gone into further education without it.
• There is also the loss of education funds to Northumberland based learner providers as a result of students choosing to access courses at out of county establishments.
• We estimate that since the free student travel scheme was implemented this cost to the schools organisation in Northumberland is in the region of £28m and if current arrangements are maintained we can expect this annual cost to the school budget to be in the region of £6.5m a year.